Learn How Fidget and Sensory Toys Can Benefit Elderly Parents with Dementia

If you’re caring for an aging loved one with Alzheimer’s or any form of dementia, most of your day is likely devoted to keeping them as safe and comfortable as possible. It can be hard to do so, especially as the symptoms of the disease progress, but fidget toys can help. Fidget toys are shown to be helpful not only for children but also for aging adults and seniors with dementia.

People with dementia may show their anxiety and agitation through fidgety hands. Signs can include pulling or rubbing at clothes or bedding, wringing hands, rubbing hands together, twisting fingers, and generally keeping hands in motion.

Sensory therapy and fidget toys can effectively reduce anxiety, provide comfort, and calm the nerves. These small, handheld, inconspicuous toys can greatly help your elderly parent. The toys offer simple, touch-based activities with no right or wrong, which can help someone with restless hands feel safe and soothed.

What are Fidget Toys?

Fidget toys are handheld objects or tools that are designed to help individuals focus, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve fine motor skills. These are toys seniors can hold in their hands to keep them engaged, so they can focus on what’s happening around them. They come in various shapes, sizes, and textures and may include stress balls, tangle toys, putty, pop-it toys, and more.

While fidget toys are commonly used by and marketed to children who have difficulty learning, more geriatricians are seeing the benefits of these toys for older adults living with cognitive conditions. These toys can provide distractions that help reduce restlessness or destructive behavior.

You’ve probably heard of these toys if you have school-aged children or grandchildren. Originally advertised as a tool to assist people suffering from ADHD or anxiety, these toys have become popular solely for entertainment.

1. Engages the mind

an elderly person holding a fidget spinner

Humans, regardless of age, need physical activity. The elderly or those who have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease needs to be involved in life – in whatever capacity – to prevent further cognitive decline. Fidget toys can offer people with dementia a way to maintain focus and be comforted as their minds remain restless. The individual using it may be unaware of the advantages, but they exist.

Dementia impairs cognitive functioning, social capabilities, and perception, leaving the patient frequently agitated. As the condition develops, they regain their childish traits. For people with dementia, things tend to seem new again because they tend to forget history, so when you give them the fidget toy, they may be charmed, excited, and engaged.

2. Gives feelings of calm

Fidget toys can give the elderly something to do with their hands, which can help them relax and feel less anxious or agitated. As the illness progress, people with dementia may develop fidgeting behaviors, and fidget toys can help them calm down and give them something to do with their hands.

3. Reduces stress and anxiety

Seniors with dementia are often agitated and nervous about something, making them move a lot or even wander. Fidget toys can help reduce stress and anxiety by providing a physical outlet for nervous energy and helping to regulate breathing and heart rate. Fidget toys can help soothe them and help them stay focused on an activity. It’s an excellent option for people who want to do something with their hands but are unsure what it is.

4. Improves hand strength

Arthritis is common among the aging population, and your elderly parent with dementia may have arthritis, too. These people and those with mobility challenges in the hands and fingers can benefit from fidget tools. They are small enough to manipulate properly but not so small that they’re hard to operate. Using these toys can help your senior move her hands and fingers a bit more than they are used to, as it can help warm up the joints and ease pain and stiffness.

Fidget spinners, for one, can help maintain dexterity and strengthen finger and hand muscles. Fidget cubes also assist in building and maintaining the dexterity of the hands and fingers.

Using fidget toys can help improve fine motor skills, which can be important for the elderly to maintain their independence in activities of daily living.

5. Provides sensory stimulation and motor control

Many fidget toys provide sensory stimulation, such as tactile or visual stimulation, which can benefit the elderly with sensory processing disorders or age-related decline in sensory function. Some forms of dementia exhibit these symptoms so that a fidget toy can be helpful.

Motor nerves can also benefit from fidget toys. These nerves convey signals to the muscles or hormones, causing them to react to external stimuli. Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia may cause loss of motor control, and fidget toys can assist with recovering that and so as improving the state of the disease.

6. Allows them to connect with grandchildren

Seniors can connect with their grandkids by using fidget toys. Because many youngsters are obsessed with it, they will think it’s cool if Grandma or Grandpa is playing with the same toy.

7. Quiet to use

Fidget toys can be used without bothering others. Since they are small, handheld, and don’t make noise, they are ideal for seniors who may share rooms in a nursing home or senior care facility where others may be disturbed. Since they are compact, they can easily be stored in a pocket, bedside table, or purse and be played with whenever and wherever they want.

What Are Some Fidget Toys Suitable for the Elderly with Dementia

If you’re looking for the best type of fidget toy to give your elderly loved one with dementia, here are some toys that can help soothe and entertain them:

1. Fidget Spinners

In 2017, fidget spinners were a popular trend. Many individuals use them as a means to remain engaged and focused. Although some consider them toys, they also serve as therapy for people with ADD, ADHD, anxiety, Alzheimer’s, dementia, or those who tend to fidget. Elderly individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s may find fidget spinners helpful in calming them down and maintaining their focus on a particular activity. Additionally, those with arthritis may benefit from using them to strengthen their finger and hand muscles, thus preventing stiffness in the finger joints.

2. Tangle Toys

Elderly individuals with Alzheimer’s often display fidgety behavior, and tangle games can give them the means to occupy their hands as they move. These games can keep seniors engaged for extended periods, resulting in calming effects and the potential to improve hand motions and restore movement in hand joints and finger muscles.

The tangle toys consist of links that can be detached and reattached repeatedly. However, if seniors have a tendency to put objects in their mouths, it is crucial to supervise them while playing with these tangle therapy toys, as some have small pieces that may pose a choking hazard.

3. Fidget Cubes

Similar to fidget spinners, fidget cubes are designed to keep the hands and minds of the user occupied. They provide relief from stress and anxiety. However, unlike fidget spinners, which only offer one activity, fidget cubes come with various interaction points or sides. They allow users to engage in different activities, such as flipping a switch, twirling components, pressing buttons, and more.

4. Fidget Snap and Click Toys

Plastic fidget toys that snap can provide stress relief therapy for elderly individuals with dementia and children with autism and ADHD. They promote a sense of calmness and increase focus and attention. Furthermore, they can help maintain the fine motor skills, problem-solving abilities, and eye and hand coordination of seniors.

5. Fidget Quilts or Blankets

If your granny is fidgety, here’s the type of quilt to give them. Fidget quilts or blankets are lap-sized and are designed to provide sensory stimulation and engage the mind of individuals with dementia or other cognitive impairments. These quilts are typically made with a variety of materials and textures, such as buttons, zippers, ribbons, and pockets, that can be manipulated and fidgeted with. The various textures and objects on the quilt can provide a source of interest and curiosity, helping to keep the mind active and engaged. Plus, the blanket itself can also provide comfort and a sense of security.

6. Stress Balls

Stress balls are small, soft balls that can be squeezed or manipulated in hand. They are designed to help relieve stress and tension and promote relaxation. It can also help improve grip strength and fine motor skills. For elderly individuals with dementia, stress balls can help maintain their fine motor skills, grip strength, and hand-eye coordination. Regular use of stress balls can help keep their fingers and hands active, which is important for maintaining mobility and independence.

7. Therapy Putty

Therapy putty, also known as hand therapy putty, is a pliable, soft material designed to help improve hand strength and dexterity. It is commonly used as a physical therapy tool to help individuals recover from hand or wrist injuries, surgeries, or conditions such as arthritis.

It’s also used as a fidget toy, especially for the elderly who need to keep their hands occupied or manage feelings of anxiety or stress. It can provide a calming and soothing effect when manipulated in the hands.

8. Twiddle Muff

People with dementia often experience restlessness, agitation, and anxiety, which can be alleviated by using a twiddle muff. It is a knitted or crocheted muff with items attached to it, such as buttons, ribbons, or zippers, to provide tactile stimulation and sensory engagement for individuals with dementia or other cognitive impairments. The textures and objects on the muff provide a sensory experience that can help soothe and calm the individual, reducing feelings of anxiety and agitation.

Conclusion

It’s essential to consider the individual’s physical abilities and preferences when selecting fidget toys for the elderly. Fidget toys can be a helpful tool for promoting relaxation, reducing stress and anxiety, engaging their minds, preserving hand strength, providing sensory stimulation, and giving a connection to their grandchildren.

Because symptoms may vary from person to person, a fidget toy recommended by another caregiver or a nursing home may not work for your loved one. Always consider what you think may be best for the elderly’s condition and preferences.